The four-week festival "Dangerous Desire: Classic Film Noir" starts at the NW Film Center this weekend, and it's a pretty incredible mix of rarities. Of the dozen or so films, I had only seen two prior to getting screeners. You can look at the whole schedule on the Film Center site.
I covered the fest for the Portland Mercury, and you can read my take on the collection over at their site. While I was writing the article, though, I also wrote short reviews of some of the films so I could keep them straight. I will post those here on the weekends when the specific films run. Tonight's opener, The Prowler, is a must-see. Sadly, I didn't get to see The Hunted, screening tomorrow, and I'll be at some jerk's wedding instead.
THE PROWLER (1951), dir. Joseph Losey
"You're a real cop, aren't you? You want everything for free."
A dirty little noir with a great opening sequence. It's no wonder author James Ellroy gets a special thanks for aiding in the restoration of this movie, as it only makes sense he'd dig a film that begins with someone peeping through Evelyn Keyes' bathroom window. The twist is that the unseen voyeur is not the bad guy here, but one of the cops who comes to investigate. Webb (Van Heflin) takes a liking to Susan (Keyes) and senses she is bored in her quiet life as the spouse of a radio DJ. He manipulates her into an affair, and then manipulates things further to get the husband out of the way. (On the radio, the man is voiced by blacklisted scribe Dalton Trumbo, who also wrote the script under a false name.) It's interesting how though Webb's crimes are meant to better their lives, their situation becomes increasingly more desolate, leading to a rather bleak fate for Webb. In the film's final images, he is reduced to a tiny figure struggling in a vast wasteland. The Prowler is good fun, and Heflin makes for a surprisingly effective creeper.
[Screening September 14, 7 pm]
NOBODY LIVES FOREVER (1946) dir. Jean Negulesco
Working with the classic noir trope of a man trying to outrun a dangerous past for a life with the woman who will make it all worth it, John Garfield turns in a fine performance as a natural-born gangster turned war vet who finds it's not so easy to slip back into the role of con man. Known for his knack with the ladies, Nick is brought in on a job to seduce a rich widow (Geraldine Fitzgerald, who can be described as a "handsome woman" without it being a pejorative or euphemism). Naturally, he falls for her, but his attempts to extract himself from the situation are met with skepticism by his criminal cohorts. George Coulouris is particularly memorable as a menacing hood on his last chance. He is hunched and shambling, almost like a Hunchback or a Dickensian villain. There is also a rather surprising sequence at the San Juan Capistrano mission, complete with swallows, the gentility of which is off-set by the tense finale.
[screening September 16, 7 pm]
Current Soundtrack: Pet Shop Boys, Elysium